NEWS

Secret Service Takes Blame for Security Breach at White House State Dinner

By Matthew Harwood

The head of the Secret Service went before Congress yesterday and accepted full responsibility for the security breakdown last week that allowed an uninvited, attention-seeking couple to crash President Barack Obama's first state dinner.

According to McClatchy Newspapers, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said the responsibility fell squarely on his and his staff's shoulders.

"In our judgment, a mistake was made," Sullivan told the House Homeland Security Committee. "In our line of work, we cannot afford even one mistake. I fully acknowledge that the proper procedures were not followed. ... This flaw has not changed our agency's standard, which is to be right 100 percent of the time."

Sullivan did admit, however, that if a representative from the White House's social secretary's office was present at the gate to help his agent vet guests, the party-crashing couple Tareq and Michaele Salahi may have been stopped.

"At many past events, there has been a White House representative present to help identify guests, Sullivan said," according to CNN.com. "He added that it was decided Wednesday that that will be done in the future."

Nevertheless, the Salahi's still made it past additional layers of security to make it into the White House and get their photo snapped with President Obama during his first state dinner with the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh.

In the fallout of the security blunder, three Secret Service agents have been put on administrative leave, while the White House blocked the committee's request to have Social Secretary Desiree Rogers testify at the hearing.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the ranking Republican on the committee, was not happy with the Obama administration, saying the committee could not get to the bottom of things without someone from the White House testifying.

"We can't do it unless we have someone from the White House having the guts to come down here and testify, instead of hiding behind a phony claim of separation of powers," King said.

Since the security breach last week, security at the White House has been ramped up. According to Lynn Sweet of the Chicago-Sun Times, guests for a Christmas party there yesterday faced layers of security.

One of my spies told me that White House staffers sat at tables at the entry gate checking off guests as they arrived; in all ID's had to be shown at three checkpoints before guests entered the East Wing and passed through the magnetometer. This triple checking comes after Michaele and Tareq Salahi sailed past checkpoints and were able to enter the White House even through they were not on any guest list.


♦ Photo of White House gate by leon~/Flickr

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